Czech Republic claim Davis Cup
The Czech Republic secured Davis Cup glory, as Radek Stepanek defeated Spain's Nicolas Almagro 6-4 7-6 3-6 6-3 in the fifth and deciding rubber match to inspire his country to an overall 3-2 victory.
Beginning the day 2-1 up after a surprise success in the doubles yesterday, the Czechs knew only one victory was needed from their two singles matches to win the Davis Cup, and it was Stepanek who was the hero of the hour after David Ferrer in the first clash of the day had defeated Tomas Berdych 6-2 6-3 7-5 to keep Spanish dreams alive.
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With everything to play for in the decider, it was no surprise that the opening set was a very tight affair with neither player giving an inch.
After Almagro missed the opportunity to secure a break with the score at 4-3, Stepanek made the most of his let-off to wrap up the first set when he capitalised on a poor service game from his opponent with the score at 5-4.
With the momentum now very much in the home side's favour Stepanek had a spring in the step, but slowly and surly Almagro began to find a foothold in the match, and he stunned the partisan crowd when he raced into a 4-2 lead after earning a break.
The pressure was now all on Stepanek, but the 34-year-old kept his cool and after holding his own serve, immediately claimed a break of his own to even the score at 4-4, and then take a 5-4 lead.
Almagro was again faced with the task of holding his serve at 5-4, and this time was able to do so despite been put under severe pressure by his experienced opponent.
Stepanek quickly made the score 6-5, and after Almagro saved two break points to hold his own serve, the set went into a tiebreak which the Czech completely dominated as he took all seven points to give himself an imposing two-set lead.
The 27-year-old Spaniard looked devastated as he tried to comprehend his nightmare in the tiebreak, but he showed great resolve on his serve in the first game to hold it after surviving three break points.
This seemed to inspire Almagro, and after earning two breaks he went on to claim the third set 6-3, much to the delight of the travelling Spanish contingent.
It was now very much game on, but any hopes Almagro had of a memorable comeback were extinguished as Stepanek raced into a 4-1 lead, and he held his nerve to record a 6-3 victory which sent the crowd into raptures as they celebrated their first Davis Cup victory as an independent nation.
Ferrer is rated as 25/1 to win the First Grand Slam of 2013 in Australia, with Andy Murray 5/2.
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